Waterlooville Golf Club is cutting its course and membership fees to attract more young golfers.
With the sport struggling to bring youngsters to the game at a national level, professional Dave Hickman has backed the club’s new initiative to introduce forward tees to shorten the par-72 course, with five to eight-year-olds in mind.
And with reduced junior fees agreed in principle for under-14s, the club is keen to address the problem of dwindling numbers and to join the battle to entice new future members.
And they are not alone with several local clubs looking to bring through the next generation of golfers.
Hickman said: ‘There was a dip in numbers in our junior section and we believe this is a better way to increase partcipation
‘We’ve just recently introduced a much smaller course for the children which is our academy course.
‘That will see them using the same holes of our existing course but playing off blue tees to shorten the distance considerably.
‘We have aimed the academy specifically at five to eight-year-olds, which has helped bring that age group into the club as playing members.
‘The players in the new academy will be able to enjoy the blue course and the training schemes with added coaching along the line, which we are trying to integrate. The academy will make it more enjoyable for juniors.
‘And with the added coaching they receive, it will give them a structure – which is vitally important at that age.’
Aside from the introduction of the new tees, Waterlooville are also contemplating a significant reduction in their membership fees.
Neighbours Crookhorn Golf Club offer free membership for under-18s, Portsmouth Golf Centre offer green fees for as little as £2 and Rowlands Castle’s starting junior membership fees are £60.
There has already been an increase in the numbers for the junior section at Waterlooville and Hickman is hopeful that will continue as the changes come into force.
‘Many clubs are trying academies as a way of getting kids involved.
‘We are looking to go one step further by hopefully dropping the membership fee for juniors across the board.
‘It has been agreed in principle that the under-14 membership will be cut significantly and they will participate in our Young Masters Golf scheme – a structured coaching programme.’
With the current annual junior membership fee at Waterlooville set at £85 for under-12s, discussions are taking place over a reduction – although it has not yet been finalised by the committee.
But the Waterlooville club is the latest to take progressive steps in attempting to grow their membership base in the coming years.